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I Suck at Running…and other little white lies

I’ve been posting recent runs and their corresponding times on Facebook lately, and I’ve noticed I’m getting faster. And running longer. A few of my wonderful followers, who are beginning to seem more and more like friends, have even suggested I change the name of the page. Haha!

It is so very flattering, really. But the thing is, I will probably always think I suck at running, even if it’s just a little bit of suck. Why?

Because I am a normal runner, that’s why. I’m just a regular, average, run-of-the-mill runner. I am not elite. I am not sub-elite. I am not winning age group awards. Will I win an age group award someday? Maybe, maybe not. But I am a runner. The runner I am today is not the runner I was yesterday, and who knows what I can accomplish tomorrow? Or next year, or in five years, or…you get my point.

But what I do know is this: I have no genetic blessings when it comes to running. I was not born with speed. I work, and work, and work, and I am still not “fast.”

I say I suck because I’m just someone who runs, and I write for every runner out there who will probably never qualify for the Boston Marathon. I write for every runner out there who will most likely never see a six or seven minute mile, regardless of training. I write for every runner out there who will never be taken seriously because they aren’t “fast.”

I still say I suck because even though I’m improving, and I do take my training seriously, it’s a reminder to myself that running is fun. It isn’t my career, and I do this because I can. I’m not trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials (and it wouldn’t matter how hard I trained-I will never qualify), but I do want to do my best. I run for myself. I run to live, and sometimes live to run, but I will never run for a living.

 

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It’s Not About the Buckle- My Reasons for Wanting to Run an Ultramarathon

Okay, maybe it is just a little bit about the buckle, but in all honestly- it’s that and so much more.

Since I’ve known what an ultra run was, I’ve wanted to do one. Boom-just like that. There has been only one other thing that really gripped me that way-that longing, that yearning to achieve-and that was flying. I didn’t stop to ask why I wanted to fly, but the sky was there, other planes were there, and I knew at age 4 that if someone was indeed flying those planes over my house, I could fly one, too.

So I did.

Flying a plane.

Me, just flying a plane…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small digression aside, I think it’s my nature to run, to wander, to fly. There’s something in the wandering that has always appealed to me. As a child I was always dreaming of escape, lying in the backyard grass watching planes overhead and knowing I would someday take off in one myself, as the pilot.

I constantly drove my mother insane in early elementary school when I decided (frequently) to take the long, meandering way home from an already long school day. Sometimes I would add an extra hour to my walk home, just because I could. I loved the adventure, and the solitude, and studying the way the streets curved. I loved looking at the houses. Never content with the same way home day after day, the new routes were exciting to me. Of course, my mother didn’t feel the same way. Fraught with worry, I would often see her frazzled and harried face speed walking down the street, ready to grab me and drag me home.

Other times I would stand at the end of our driveway and stare at the Superstition Mountains to the east, and wonder how long it would take me to walk there. Those mountains beckoned, all the time. I was always aware of their presence, and I always wanted to get there. Any and all efforts were immediately thwarted by my mother, who, having no sense of adventure, forbid her 8 year-old daughter from setting out to walk to mountains that were at most 50 miles away from the house. Spoilsport.

Superstition Mountains

Still not sure why my mom wouldn’t let me walk from my house to go climb these mountains…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So when I first heard about this beast called an ultra-marathon, I was immediately smitten. I was running with a friend who had actually completed a few, and did pretty well. Now, unlike me, she had actual running talent. But when I asked her about running an ultra, I heard the glorious words “You don’t HAVE to be fast for an ultra. If you can run a marathon, you can run an ultra. It’s all mental after that, and really, it’s pretty much all pain management after 50 miles.”

I was sold.

Really, when I stop to think about why I want to do an ultra, I’m fairly certain there is no one answer. Actually, there is one BIG answer; an amalgam of smaller answers and reasons all rolled into one. Because it’s there. Because people do them, and I can, too. But let’s break it down.

I want to run, I love to run, and I have always been about “far.” I don’t think I have the genetic capability to go fast, but I can go far. I love the mental aspect of an ultra, how it requires patience, and self-discipline, and more patience.

I want to run it because I’m honestly a little afraid. I’m afraid of the pain, and afraid of being alone with my thoughts. But that’s also precisely why I’m also drawn to doing just that. I want to have the opportunity to push myself mentally farther than I have ever gone in my life. To work through those demons in the recesses of my psyche, telling me I can’t. I want to annihilate that fear of the dark, both mental and physical. Because to face that fear, and get over it, I have to run right through it.

I want to run it because it’s difficult. I will be a mess both physically and mentally, and that’s okay. I have to get there. Again, I have to run through it.

I want to run it because it’s finally okay for me to wander. That longing I had as a child is still there. I want to wander, to run, and to fly. But this time it’s different. I feel secure enough to let the people close to me see me at my weakest. I feel content that although I’m wandering, I know exactly where I’m going, and where I’m supposed to be. I know what makes me happy, and instead of wanting to fly away, I want to fly and wander with those who love and support me. I want to enjoy the journey with those who understand. I think most ultra runners understand.

Because running an ultra, well, running in general, is kind of like driving. Some prefer to get from point A to point B on the interstate, making good time, not caring about much else. Some like to take the back roads. But like driving on old Route 66, my running isn’t always about making good time. My running isn’t interstate, it’s winding mountain roads: Sometimes harrowing, mostly meandering, and always stopping to appreciate the view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Chance for Boston Half Marathon Re-Cap

 

I don’t tend to do race re-cap blog entries, because I don’t want to bore anyone, but I figured “what the hell” this time. So here goes.

I knew I was ready, but I wasn’t enthusiastic. I woke up in plenty of time, and I wasn’t tired, but I wasn’t full of “pep,” either. I had never run the Last Chance for Boston race before, and the course is a mile loop, so I was a little apprehensive. I wasn’t sure how I would do running 13 consecutive mile loops in the middle of an architecturally boring area consisting of nothing but office buildings and chain hotels, but I was definitely willing to give it a shot.

I got to the race early, because I’m completely anal-retentive about getting to races on time, and said good morning to some of my other running friends. One of the things I love about running races is that I usually see other running friends there-whether they’re volunteering or running it themselves. I chatted with my friend Richard for a while, texted Pacer Paul, my running coach (who was running late), saw another friend and sometimes coach (Chris) already running the marathon distance, and talked to Sarah, another running friend who would also be running the half.

I felt settled in after seeing everyone, and fell into line with the rest of the runners, including another running friend Shannon, who has a really cool blog as well. Check it out here.

It was cold, as February in Ohio tends to be, but it wasn’t brutal. The first two miles were a little rough, and I was a tiny bit worried. Okay, more than a little worried. My problem is a pain on the top of my foot/ankle that tends to flare up occasionally. Not all the time, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason, but it just kind of appears out of nowhere. It appeared yesterday morning. It slowed me down.

Thankfully it only lasted about 2 miles, and seemed to disappear as randomly as it appeared, and I picked up the pace.

I knew I would PR, since my training run times were consistently better than my last half marathon time. So I gave it a little go.

The result? A half PR of about 16 minutes. 16 freaking minutes.

Am I happy about that? Hell yes. Can I do better? Yes. And I will-with more training. I used to run that distance regularly in under 2 hours on training runs, and I will get there again. I know I will.

So, this race has made me think-taught me a few things.

  1. Consistent training is my friend.
  2. I see a sub 2:00 half marathon in my future.
  3. It is important to me to surround myself with other runners. More on this later I think. Blog post forming in my head…

Also, surprisingly, I found the loops to be meditative. I was able to pull into myself and just run. I didn’t really notice spectators, other than my friends Richard and Lisa at the finish every time I did a loop, and Pacer Paul lapped me a few times, which was both encouraging and humbling. I saw Sarah lap me once, and seeing her for my last two loops gave me even more strength and encouragement.

I honestly thought the loops would bore me, but the opposite was true. I could just focus on my running, my breathing, my pace. Great training for some loop ultras I have planned later in the year.

Also, I need to take more pictures. Pictures of me, pictures of me with running friends, just pictures. I want to remember.

 

 

 

 

 

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Limits: Get Rid of Them

As the year comes to a close, I find I’m thinking about limits more and more. Limits in general. With my career (as much of a joke as it is right now), with my running, and with my life.

What am I finding? I’m finding that most of my limits are self-imposed.

Yes, people shit on us, knock us down, try to ruin our chances at something. But in the end, we are responsible for our own thoughts…our own actions. Sorry for the language, but I’m very passionate about this. And I’m still learning.

Why do some people accomplish so much, while others just seem to languish in sameness, stuck in an endless loop of the same struggles, never really escaping the endless cycle of mental and physical stagnation?

Because it’s easy to stay where you are, to just accept everything as is, never reaching, never growing. We tell ourselves those big accomplishments are for other people. People smarter than us. People with more energy.

So, if we are satisfied with the same days running into other days running into the next day, then we can probably keep doing what we’re doing. We can keep living our “comfortable” life, never questioning or trying or wearing ourselves out trying to improve. But me? I want more.

Those people who accomplish big things? Sure, they get tired, but they persevere. They keep going even when they get tired, because what they want is more important than any fleeting feeling of being tired.

Do they fail? Sure, but they pick it all back up and keep going. They know life isn’t fair, but they keep going anyway. Why? Because they want it badly enough. They crush those limits-they break through them. They annihilate them, because most are self imposed, anyway.

So, I’m going to ask-what are your limits? Or, rather, what do you think are your limits? Are they running or fitness related? For more help and inspiration with that, check out http://www.sothisisfitness.com/2013/12/lose-your-limits-challenge-2014.html.

Are your limits career related? Personal relationships? Identify them. Really face them. Give them a hard look. Then, make a plan.

2014 is the year we get rid of those limits, right? Join me if you want. After all, it’s easier when you have a hand to hold.

Attitude and NO LIMITS. I want what she's having.

Attitude and NO LIMITS. I want what she’s having.

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Why is Christmas Like Long Distance Running?

On Christmas Day I like to run. I mean, I REALLY like to run. I think about how the year is wrapping up and how far I’ve come with my running (or if I’ve been injured-how much more I suck). I also really love to look at all the lights and Christmas decor before everyone rips it all down. Which led me down the track to the distance running-Christmas thought train. (See what I did there?)

Sorry about that…

Anyway, as I was running I saw someone had already discarded their Christmas tree. Now, this run took place mid afternoon today-Christmas Day (Disclaimer- it’s possible this particular tree was a fire hazard, which actually proves my point further so never mind). Someone was done with Christmas ON Christmas. So I thought, really? REALLY? Now, to each his own here, and I don’t claim one way is better than the other, but since this is my blog, I’m giving my own opinion. But be warned- I am pretty opinionated in this post. This is a combination running post/Christmas rant. If you are one of those people who puts their Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving gets here, and tears everything down Christmas Day, you should stop reading now.

So, how is Christmas like long distance running?

1) Some people start before conditions are ideal. It’s really not a good idea to jump on the distance running bandwagon until you’re ready. Just because it seems like everyone’s running, say, a half marathon, doesn’t mean it’s a great idea for everyone. Now, it’s great people want to be healthy, but hear me out. I’m not saying don’t do it, but I am saying it’s better to have a good running base before you embark on the distance running quest. Why? There’s a good chance that if you start running a distance your body isn’t ready to run, you will either a) not make it to the start line b) not make it to the finish line c) make it to both but have a really shitty experience. Why? Injuries, burn-out, etc. That’s why.

Same with Christmas. People are in such a rush to get out the Christmas decorations, to put up the tree, etc, that by the time Christmas actually rolls around they’re so sick of Christmas they can’t wait to tear it all down. Patience people, it will get here. Waiting to celebrate teaches patience.

You can’t rush running progress, and you can’t rush Christmas. Both will be here. Wait until it’s time.

2) Quit too soon and you miss the good stuff. Some people go gangbusters when they start running. They’re consistent, wake up early, and run too many miles way too quickly. They go all out early on, and usually end up giving up or getting hurt. They never get to experience the fun of a race they’ve truly prepared for. 

Same with Christmas, really. Remember being a child, and really enjoying that time between Christmas and New Years? Or better yet, look at it from another point of view. That week between Christmas and New Years Day is a freakin GOLD MINE OF FUN! Or at least, it should be. Think about it. The shopping is finished, the massive frenzy of Christmas itself is over with, and all that’s left to do is sit back, enjoy the decorations, etc. It’s a time to chill out. Enjoy the season, etc. One of my favorite things to do was always drive around and look at Christmas lights. Now people tear them down right after Christmas. Why? People are tired of it. Burned out. I remember when it was rare to see a Christmas tree, or Christmas decorations, before the month of December. No wonder people are tired of Christmas on Christmas- they’ve been celebrating since before Thanksgiving even hit!

With running and Christmas, the real fun comes after the hard work. The hours spent preparing. Don’t pack it in until it’s time to pack it in and put it away. Enjoy the fruits of your effort. Enjoy that time right after Christmas-the stress is gone and you worked hard. Now enjoy it. Enjoy that race now. The real hard part is over.

 

3) It’s not about the swag. I’m not saying medals aren’t nice, but that shouldn’t be the reason you run. Just like presents shouldn’t define Christmas. Both running and Christmas are so much more than the swag-the stuff. Think about your childhood, and try to remember every present you received. Chances are you remember about two of them. I know I can’t recall more than one present, but what I do remember is the experience. The family, the dinner, gazing at the tree and the lights…but not the presents.

When I think about the last race I ran, I remember the training, and how hard it was to prepare, and how much fun I had running with other people, and all the sights during the race. Sure it was nice to get a medal. But I don’t run for the medal. And I don’t celebrate Christmas for the presents.

Fun run for people who can't be patient.

Ready…set…oh screw it.

 

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A Run with My Dad

So my original plans for today were to start drinking this morning-maybe a beer or two-and move onto the harder stuff by afternoon, finally passing out in a drunken heap by 7 pm. You know, just to deal. That didn’t happen.

Why would I drink myself into oblivion on a random Tuesday? Because it’s the anniversary of the day my dad died. The 30th anniversary. AND I am now the EXACT SAME AGE he was when he died. The thought was all-encompassing, and almost too much for me to deal with, so I figured I would just deal with it by numbing the pain. Thoughts of my own mortality were overwhelming. My dad was a great, accomplished guy by the time he was my age. Me? Well, I’m not quite as successful. When I compare where I am in life, to where he was at this point, I come up short.

Melanie and Bill

Me with my runner dad way back in the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, like I said, I didn’t do that.

What I did was go for a run. My dad was a runner, and it was really the best way to remember him. If I had spent the day in an inebriated state, he would have been beyond disappointed. So I ran. The trail was icy, but I ran 8 miles anyway. Not only did I run, but I got faster with every mile. It felt great.

It’s what he would have wanted me to do today. Well, that, and have a post-run beer. He would have definitely wanted me to have a beer.

 

 

 

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Marathons and…life lessons?

If you read my last post, you’ll know I was planning on running the Columbus Marathon, which I did. While I didn’t set any course records on fire, it was a great race. Not because of any time goal, or even my performance (which wasn’t stellar-but I finished). It was a wonderful experience because I had the best time I’ve ever had running a marathon (or any race for that matter), because I wasn’t sore at all the next day (still can’t figure that one out), and most of all, because that race taught me a thing or two about distance runners.

I started the race with no real time goal, knowing I’d battled IT band issues, cysts in my knee, and a new aversion my body seemed to have for running in the heat. My only real loose goal was to beat 6 hours, which I did with plenty of time to spare. I tried not to think about the fact that the last time I ran the Columbus I was over an hour faster- and pregnant. I had also trained quite a bit harder. So there’s that.

But really, it wasn’t until after the marathon, as I was watching the New York City Marathon, that I started thinking about the marathon as a metaphor for life. I know the comparison has been around for a while, and probably done to death, but I can see why.

MelRun

Not a marathon, but I look pretty pleased with myself.

1) First of all, take a good look at everyone at the start line of a marathon. It doesn’t matter where you start, one thing doesn’t change. Everyone at that starting line is different. Some are the “typical” very thin runner types, some very muscular, some very average, and some overweight. But guess what? You can’t tell what a person is made of by looking at them. Are they fast? Slow? You really don’t know, and making assumptions would be a huge waste of time. I’ve been guilty of this before. I think everyone has. I pick out someone lined up near me and think “Wow, she has a perfect body! I am humbled by her presence! I bow down to her fitness!” Then, I beat her. So, sizing up the competition is one thing, but in the end, making assumptions is a waste of time.

2) There are some serious rough patches. I know what you’re thinking. “Well, duh-it’s 26.2 miles. More if you are a middle to back of pack runner.” I know. I start so far back I think my race is probably closer to 28 miles…But those rough parts of the race, those parts that make you want to quit- those are the parts that will eventually make you tougher. If you keep going, you’ll be rewarded. My own tough miles of a marathon are from about 17-23. I doubt my abilities, I curse my body, I lament every decision I’ve ever made in my life. But then I get to a point where I stop trying to sabotage myself. It still hurts, and it’s still difficult, but my resolve comes with a vengeance. I quit feeling sorry for myself, and I come to the realization that I can do it. I can get to that finish line!

3) Marathon-and all distance runners- are tough. That’s really what sets distance runners apart, actually. It has nothing to do with any genetic gift. Oh sure, you need to have a certain genetic component if you want to win a marathon, but to finish, and even to finish well- just takes training and mental toughness. The training, if done correctly, will be grueling, and takes time. But that will to go on, to take whatever hardships are coming, to go on running when all you want to do is quit and go eat bad food or take a shower and a nap- that’s what sets distance runners apart. Distance runners don’t let those thoughts derail them and their goals. Distance runners don’t quit. When it sucks, when it hurts, you just go. You get tired, you get sore, but you get a second, and sometimes third wind.

Distance running leaves you exposed. You’re out there, doing something most people don’t do, and emotions are raw. Digging down deep within yourself is expected, because sometimes just to finish takes everything you have. All of your energy, all of your emotion, all of your will. Just like life, distance running takes guts. People will question why you do it, and tell you that you can’t. They’ll sneer and scoff at your efforts, and say “I told you so” if you don’t win, or if you get hurt, or don’t finish, or sleep in.

So go run anyway, show the world what you’re made of. Show everyone you don’t give up. Keep running, my friends, keep running…

Socks and feet

Dapper socks, eh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Kick in the Pants

It’s been a while since I’ve last written a blog post, and it isn’t that I’ve had nothing to say, but sheer laziness when it comes to writing blog posts has really been my enemy.

Anyway, these past two weeks have been stressful, and really-so stressful the words just aren’t flowing. Usually pain gives my writing a little boost, but this time, words seem to elude me, so hopefully they will come the longer I sit here and write.

Last Wednesday I woke to a text on my phone. “Maria Tiberi was killed in a car accident last night.” See story here. It was simple, it was devastating, and it absolutely had to be a mistake. I’m no stranger to death, and unfortunately I’m not a stranger to death of a close loved one, but this hit me hard. She was only 21, had her whole life ahead of her, and she was my cousin. A cousin I had babysat countless times, who meant more to me than she would ever know.

Maria Tiberi

My beautiful cousin, Maria.

As I sat through the funeral, and the things her father, brother, sister, and boyfriend had to say about her, I was struck-not just with sadness, but with just how much she reminded me of myself, deep down underneath, and how they could have been describing my youngest daughter almost exactly.

But what really struck me? How much time we DON’T have, and how there’s no way of knowing just how much. As my thoughts now begin to settle and coalesce into some semblance of coherency, certain aspects of my life are becoming much more clear. Some are painful, and some are peaceful. Some I will struggle with until I take my last breath. I had some time to reflect while on a recent trip as well, and these are what I came up with.

1) Be yourself. Yes, it sounds like something we learned in kindergarten, but hear me out. Most people go through life trying to please other people with what they think those people want them to be. But guess what? In the long run it doesn’t work. I myself am guilty of this in spades. Sure, we have obligations, but how many of them are worthwhile? How many of these obligations will only eventually hurt us? When is it time to just be honest? I’m going to stop trying to be who I think people want me to be, and just drop the pretenses. Or at least I’m going to work on it.

2) Stop pretending, and speak up. This goes with the above point, but it’s still valid. Pretending is really a way of prolonging the pain, or a situation that’s unhealthy to begin with. Does something bother you, I mean-really bother you? Then say it. I’m not saying to sweat the small stuff and complain about everything, but if it’s really something important to you, then say so. You may hurt someone’s feelings, but most of the time-if it’s important and you are important to each other- then they will most likely appreciate your honesty. This was something Maria was good at, and something I still struggle with. But I’m working on it.

3) I really have not accomplished as much as I would have liked by this stage in my life. I really wish I had worked harder.  I’m not trying to get down on myself too much, but I’m being realistic. I’m not saying I haven’t accomplished anything, but I don’t feel it’s enough. Specifically, I should have buckled down harder and just plugged away nonstop on all my pilot ratings and certificates. Sure, a private pilot certificate and instrument rating is great, but I failed at realizing my dream of flying jets. Will it ever happen? Is it too late? I honestly don’t know, and I hope not, but it’s a serious regret I have.

It really hit me full force on my trip, as I sat in the 737 and the full weight of the fact that I don’t fly the way I had set out to fly really stings. As a matter of fact, I was reminded a few times of this shortcoming on this trip-the rest is what I keep churning in my head. Will the constant churning make me more productive? Time will tell.

There are several other things I wish I had been more successful at doing, but I will save that for another time.

Melanie Dickman in an airplane

Melanie in what is unfortunately not a 737.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) If I want something, I can’t rely on anyone else. I have to make it happen. Sure, people may help along the way, but I can’t put my faith in others, really. Other people? Some love me, some say they do, some are out to hurt me, and the majority just doesn’t care.

5) People will cause pain-they are human that way. I can be as honest as I want about something that bothers me, but in the end, someone I love may do it anyway-knowing full well it’s something that bothers me. So, I have a few choices. If it’s a small thing, and they rectify it, I can let it go. If it’s a big thing, and they don’t care that it hurts me, I can let them go. But, I can’t expect people to read my mind. Maria seemed to be an expert at this. She rarely held a grudge, but she didn’t let people take advantage of her, either.

6) Certain people aren’t worth the time. Are they completely full of drama? Do they drain my energy? Do I feel worse after having been with them or talking with them? Do they bring anything of value to the current relationship? I think we all have a few of these people hanging around.

7) Just go for it. If I want to do something, the only thing stopping me-really stopping me- is me (and I guess in some cases common sense and the law), but I’m not getting any younger. So yes, I’m going to do that marathon in three weeks, and while I may not kick ass, I will finish (and save the ass kicking performance for next year.) I will also have fun doing it.

So, Maria, you may be gone, but your impact on my life is greater than you could have ever imagined.

Sail on, sweet pirate. I will meet you on the horizon someday, where sea and sky meet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Priorities and Running

 

I’ve been considering my running life lately, and life in general, and how running and life are so friggin related. I’ve been pondering my running history, my running future, and why I run.

I’ve run every distance, from countless 5Ks, a few 10Ks, a few half marathons, and 2 marathons. I’ll be running another marathon this fall when I run move forward/drag my carcass in the Columbus Marathon again. I’m going to attempt to run the whole thing like I did last time, but I know I won’t approach my last Columbus Marathon time. Not by a long shot.

But you know what? I’m beginning to become okay with that. I’m not thrilled with my impending performance, but I’ve made peace with it.

Why? Because I’ve decided my goal is actually to become an ultra runner.  I am not a speedy runner at all, but I can go forever. I get the most satisfaction from running when I conquer a new distance. I want to run in horrible conditions- in rain, in heat, in snow, in hail, or whatever nature has to throw at me. Why? Because I’m insane, that’s why. But that whole process is something for another blog post.

So, what’s my point? Running is important to me. Specifically-distance running is important to me. It’s a part of who I am.

But Melanie, HOW does this relate to life?

Because when something’s important to you, you make time for it. This goes for anything in life-running, biking, and even people. Running is important to me, so I make time for it. Running an ultra is important to me, so I’m making the time to train. I may have to give up other activities, but that’s okay. Certain people in my life are important to me, so I make time for them. Priorities. There are only 24 hours in a day. How we spend them is up to us.

 

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A Memory Forgotten

My dad, holding me as a baby, before I gave him grief.

My dad, holding me as a baby, before I gave him grief on a daily basis as a kid.

Drifting off to sleep sometimes does interesting things to one’s mind. For me, as I drift into slumber, I start to remember. I remember the everyday, mundane things. I remember things I either need to do, or forgot to do. I remember funny things that happened, or problems to be solved, or things that bother me. But every once in a while I remember something from so long ago, childhood usually, and that memory almost makes me bolt completely upright in bed. But last night? Last night the memory was so vivid, so real, it paralyzed me. I was physically in my bed, that much was certain. But had I believed in astral projection I would swear I had projected myself back in just that fashion.

In this case, my adult body was safely in bed in 2013, but my mind had projected itself back to 1982 for some odd reason. Here, I’m barely taller than the handle on the hospital door as I turn it to enter a dark hospital room. Not dark because it’s night, but dark because the curtains are drawn. The room is fairly nondescript, really nothing special. White walls, chair in the corner, and a bed to my left. I don’t remember the car ride to the hospital, or even walking into Scottsdale Memorial Hospital that day, or anything else, really. But I remember walking into that room, and my eyes had focused like lasers on my dad, who occupied that bed to my left. He was sitting upright, and when he saw me he didn’t smile. As a matter of fact, he looked horrified.

It had never occurred to me he wouldn’t have wanted to see me. But here he was, looking past me and at my mother behind me, mouthing the word “NO!

If he could have yelled it he would have, but he didn’t have a voice. I can still see his face, loudly whispering that word to my mother. “No”. That unfamiliar word, at least from my dad. “No”.

It was the first time I could recall that he hadn’t smiled at me when when he saw me, but I hadn’t seen him in the several months he had been sick and in the hospital, in that same bed. The bed that had some magical power to make my dad tell me “NO.” I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t glad to see me. Why didn’t he smile? Where was his voice?

I ignored his “NO,” and raced to his bed, where I jumped up onto him and wrapped my 9 year-old arms around him anyway, and held on as tightly as I could. I held on as if my life depended on it. I held on as if the world would fall apart if I let go. He held on the same way.

Still paralyzed in my 2013 bed, I finally understood why he reacted with shock when I walked into the room. My mother must not have told him I was coming that day, because he would have forbid it, obviously. I was his daughter, his only child, and he didn’t want me to see him that way. To me he was always invincible, always there. He had always been strong. He was a runner, and runners were supposed to be healthy. Runners weren’t supposed to get sick. Runners were a different breed completely, right? They didn’t get sick. But here he was, lying in a hospital bed, the color of the sheets he was lying on. The color of the walls. The color of the lifeless existence he has succumbed to. I didn’t see a runner in that bed. Hell, I barely saw my dad. This was a frail, skeletal man. A man whose 39 year-old body was overtaken by cancer.

But why was I thinking about this now? This memory, suppressed for so long, safely tucked away in the darkest recesses of my mind. The area reserved for things best left forgotten. But here was this memory, and I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t tuck it back in, or press it back into that corner of my mind where it belonged. It was here, or I was there, I couldn’t really draw that distinction anymore, it was so blurred. It was one in the same. And as an insult to my psyche, other memories came rushing at me like a meteor shower in my mind, flying at me at the speed of light. I remembered the way he used to sit me on his knee and sing “Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney. How he used to take me for rides in his Austin Healy Bug-eyed Sprite. How he didn’t yell at me when I threw up an entire can of Spaghetti-Os all over his back from the back seat of our Monte Carlo as he drove me to gymnastics when I was six (he really wasn’t happy about that though, I’m sure). Memories, many times over, of him taking off for his run. Running down the street, the image fading each and every time as he ran out of sight, strong and fast. Every day, strong and fast.

Then, the hospital room again. Always back to the hospital room. This man, who was still so strong inside, only thinking of how his little girl would see him. It must have killed him to not be able to see me. For months. Truthfully, I’m not sure I would be that strong, even in that state. But despite his physical weakness, his will was intact. He wanted to be the strong man-the dad. My hero, as he had always been.

And I think how sad I am now because as I grow older I look less and less like him. But the saving grace is that with every passing year, my teenage son looks more and more like him. He was taking over what had once been left to me and only me, the responsibility of keeping him alive somehow, at least physically.

But in all fairness, it really wasn’t necessary. My son looks quite a bit like him, and acts like him, too. But the legacy he left me inside, well, it can’t be touched. Physical characteristics aside, his love of running, his aviation passion, it’s all there. His love of life? Here. His dry, quick wit? It lives in my son, with a vengeance.

So, dad, don’t worry. I don’t really remember your cancer-ravaged, pale shadow-of-a-man-body. I only remember you.

Mom and dad on their wedding day

My mom and dad on their wedding day in 1968.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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